As a quick follow-up to yesterday's post about the suit filed against UCSF, I thought I'd point out some resources relevant to the federal regulations (in the U.S.) governing the use of animals in scientific research.
These are the regulations currently in place -- whether you think they do too little to protect the welfare of animals or too much to restrict scientific research, they're the rules of the game. If the feds are not satisfied that they are being met, the feds are within their rights to withdraw federal funding from the institution that is out of compliance.
- The text of the Animal Welfare Act. (You may want to grab a legislative assistant as you read through this one.)
- The text of the Health Research Extension Act of 1985. (Ditto.) These two pieces of legislation set up the responsibilities of the IACUC and requirements on the composition of the IACUC.
- The Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
- The website of the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), which organizes many useful links to policies, educational resources, etc.
- From the National Academy of Sciences, the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
- A very useful guide, How to Work With Your Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). This walks you through what the not-entirely-congruent laws require of the IACUC in terms of protocol reviews, reviews of facilities, reporting to federal agencies, etc. There's also a nice discussion of the minimal requirements the feds put on the composition of the IACUC under the AWA and the HREA. (In both cases, at least one member of the IACUC must be a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, with training or experience in laboratory animal science and medicine, and another must be someone who is completely unaffiliated with the institution whose IACUC it is. The PHS policy also requires a member who is a practicing scientist experienced in research involving animals and a member "whose primary concerns are in a nonscientific area".)
OK, this isn't actually light reading. But it's important reading, in that it lets you see the existing standards that institutions conducting animal research using federal funds must meet, and the role of the IACUC in making sure the standards are met. And, these standards go beyond simply making sure animals have clean cages and adequate daily care. The IACUC is charged with making sure, for example, that researchers have considered alternative methods that could reduce animal distress. The researchers can make an argument as to why these alternative are unacceptable within the research project, but they are required to consider them, and it's part of the charge of the IACUC to make sure this requirement is met.